Lift One decision draws ire of Aspen chamber
ASPEN ” When they were approached by Mayor Mick Ireland more than a year ago to help foster a master plan for the base of Aspen Mountain, Aspen Chamber Resort Association members were excited about the prospect of reinvigorating an historic section of town.
But after a year in the making, that master plan was shot down by the council this month with Ireland positioned for the swing vote. He dissented, making it a 2-2 vote. The council then voted 3-1 to refer the proposal to Aspen voters this May.
ACRA board members expressed their disappointment with the decision during their monthly meeting held Tuesday. They wondered out loud why they were asked to participate if the plan didn’t have a chance.
Ireland ” who was part of a 27-member citizen task force called a COWOP, otherwise known as a “Convenience and Welfare of the Public” committee ” ultimately voted against the Lift One Master Plan because it includes a parking garage that would accommodate nearly 500 cars underneath South Aspen Street. Additionally, the development would generate an estimated 1,300 car trips daily.
“I’m absolutely outraged watching Mick,” said ACRA board member Rick Jones, regarding Ireland’s statements at the Jan. 14 council meeting when the vote took place. “To watch Mick at the end hang his hat on something that was so general, that really pissed me off.”
He added: “I feel that Mick duped us from the get-go.”
Saying that the mayor failed in his leadership of the COWOP process, Jones added: “He doesn’t stand for the ideals of the business community, and it makes me angry.”
That comment spurred applause by other ACRA board members, which put City Councilman Jack Johnson on the defensive.
Johnson said it’s unfortunate that a comment like Jones’ would elicit that kind of response, saying the City Council is not against the business community, and a statement suggesting that is untrue and unfair.
“I would think twice about making statements like that,” he told Jones.
ACRA board member Cari Britton said what’s unfortunate is that recommendations from citizen boards are often ignored by the City Council.
“It seems like the council doesn’t listen to citizen boards and unfortunately, people are going to stop volunteering,” she said. “People do care about spending their time volunteering and want to be listened to.”
Johnson said it’s not that volunteer-based boards aren’t listened to but that ultimately the decision rests with elected officials.
“Recommendations are just that, recommendations,” he responded.
ACRA board chairman Stan Clauson said even if the council had voted for the master plan, it would have likely been taken to a referendum by an opposition group made up of longtime locals.
“I’m disappointed by the council and the planning process not succeeding but the ‘nostalgia troops’ were going to take it to a referendum anyway,” he said.
ACRA CEO and President Debbie Braun, who also served on the COWOP, said the ballot question initiated from City Hall will be more straight forward and as a result, it has a greater chance of succeeding.
The master plan proposes nearly 300,000 square feet of residential and commercial space along South Aspen Street, which will cost an estimated half-billion dollars to build.
John Sarpa, representing Centurion Partners, and Bob Daniel, representing Roaring Fork Mountain Lodge-Aspen LLC, are the two developers individually proposing two hotels, affordable housing, restaurants, retail space and public amenities on an 8-acre site in what’s known as the Lift One neighborhood. The city of Aspen and the Aspen Skiing Co. also are landowners at the site.
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Aspen and Pitkin County have the largest black bear population and as such, are hoping for a big portion of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant to help educate and enforcement rules around securing trash.